The Echo Chamber
During the Watergate hearings, John Dean made the press aware of an Enemies List, the top 20 enemies to the Nixon Administration was to be targeted with retribution once Nixon was re-elected. While reading the list on the air, Daniel Schorr was shocked to read his own name at number 17. It was at this time that most Americans really became aware, not just esoterically but in a very real way, of the potential power that could be wielded against the press in an effort to construct an Echo Chamber for their agenda, a way to marginalize and quiet their opposition to allow an administration to more effectively put their agenda in place. Since this time charges of similar underhanded efforts to manipulate the press and other political opponents from the White House have been made public, but none so overtly or so boldly as the Obama Administration’s current hypocrisy against Fox News.
Now, I am decidedly not a Fox News watcher. The opinion shows are dreadful to listen, let alone watch and what they pass off as news is appallingly stomach turning at best. But I don’t limit my disdain to JUST Fox News as most liberals do, or to CNN and MSNBC as most conservatives do. In fact, I find most ‘TV News Channels’ to have become a cacophony of bleating egos, more concerned with attaining ratings than anything approaching integrity, including the precious NPR who has admitted, finally, that they do accept advertising as most of us has already accepted some time ago. So while I am not standing up for Fox News practices in any regard, to have the Executive Branch of the United States of America getting the idea that they can give a thumbs up or thumbs down to what is or isn’t valid journalism. I’m pretty sure that most everyone who isn’t playing partisan games will agree that no governmental agency should be attempting to make that determination.
Fortunately, real news people who are interested in the integrity of the relationship between government and the press have spoken up. Granted, the number is far smaller than I would like to see, but leading the charge appears to be ABC’s Jake Tapper. Jake got into a back and forth with He Who Cannot Be Trusted To Tell The Truth (Robert Gibbs) and made it clear that their attempt to get the other news organizations to play ball with their pushing out of Fox News from their brotherhood wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. Soon, faced with the idea of standing up for Journalistic Integrity and trying to make your news network suddenly number one, the ones real Journalistic Integrity are starting to make themselves known. And so are the others, such as MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann who wouldn’t know what journalism was if it sat on his lap and called him daddy. Can anyone spot the ironies in his discussion with Richard Wolffe?
It’s not about news, it’s about personal attacks," Wolffe argues.
Does he just realize that he said that to the man who runs a segment called ‘Worst Person in the World’? Who has made a lucrative living by being one of the major attack dogs for the liberal community?
Did he not get the IRONY?
The hypocrisy for me, to be honest, was to see the attacks against Fox News being made on MSNBC. Just about every claim they can and have made against Fox News has been committed by MSNBC in their zeal to try to take views away from Fox News and doing so by ‘playing their own game’. No one can possibly take any of this seriously when they use an organization that is as left leaning as Fox News is right leaning and then complain that they aren’t ‘real journalists’. And one of the worst accusations made by Fox News critics has been that they get their ‘talking points’ from the White House directly (now from the RNC). But if this is a bad thing, why is it apparently ok for the White House to email Mika Brzezinski and for her to read this email ON THE AIR, accepting the WH view of the topic they were discussing as the accepted truth and moving on? As bad as Fox News is, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything close to that level of brash disregard for Journalistic Integrity, even Joe Scarborough was a bit shocked.
But these events just appear to me to be the latest attempts by the left in the United States to build and sustain an Echo Chamber of political views, not just to feed their own egos but to push an agenda that is fraught with problems. It is too politically dangerous to have to defend these new programs and laws, if there can be a way to stifle and marginalize opposition to them then the safer the politicians who are being tasked with enacting these policies can feel.
When President Obama was elected the thought from the left was that they had everything they needed to enact their policies, the people wanted everything that they had been selling and now was the time to push it all through. Despite that being a different mindset than President Obama had suggested was the right way to govern, that was what started to happen. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Senate and House floors. The people, who wanted something different but weren’t necessarily willing to go as far as it appeared the Executive and Legislative branches wanted to go, started to grumble. Much as I had predicted would happen the day after President Obama was elected. And the right picked up on this dissent and did what they could do to whip it up and get it frothing.
No one is guaranteed to have no opposition to their agendas when it comes to politics. But many on the left felt as if they had been promised such and were searching wildly for something to blame all of this dissent on. After all, it couldn’t be their agenda, the people WANTED it! So they started off attempting to marginalize the opposition. Attacking groups that were getting involved and helping further the Tea Party protests that had been going on for years before the election of 2008 they felt that they had successfully limited this effort. However, in doing so they had marginalized many in the middle who were upset about the direction of the new president who they had just helped elect and alienated them, stripping away their trust and turning them away from their agenda. Still, the numbers were small and an acceptable hit.
Then came the attempt to pass the Health Care reform packages without any kind of debate. More people got upset about this, it not only portrayed the arrogance of Washington to many who were uneasy about the increasing power of the federal government over the past 80 years, but highlighted an area that President Obama had campaigned on, transparency. So when that attempt stalled and the congressmen went on recess, those people made their voice heard. And, as they did with the Tea Party protests, the right picked upon the dissent and helped forth it for their own political gain.
This was too much for the left. They again went after the groups who were involved in assisting with the Tea Party protests, but when this didn’t work as well, they started in on the protesters themselves. This failed even more miserably and finally they pulled out their big trump card and labeled the ‘majority’ of the dissent coming from racist views. To their credit, the administration backed off on this tact, but not very loudly, allowing the Echo Chamber that was being constructed to start its positive feedback loop and make the accusations true, whether there was anything behind it or not.
The bad news from all of this is that the numbers for the president continued to decline. They are down for the Democrats in congress. They are down f
or the Republicans in congress. There are some on the left that try to use this as a positive, at least their negative numbers aren’t as bad as their opponents, but it sounds a bit weak to me. Bad is bad.
So now, it appears that more work needs to go into ramping up the Echo Chamber. This is where Fox News comes in. Long an enemy to the left, if they can push Fox News out of being considered a legitimate news source, unlike the good news organizations like MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS and NPR, then the left can further marginalize and segment off a portion of the voting public as being ‘inconsequential’. They can increase the positive feedback loop they are trying to create and block out the largest portion of the negative feedback that has been preventing it from getting ramped up to their liking. At least, this appeared to be the plan.
However, the administration made two crucial mistakes.
First, it underestimated the power of Journalistic Integrity and how much of it still exists, even in those who they see as friendly to the administration. The insinuation is that if Fox News is ‘bad’ and ‘unfriendly’ to the administration, then the other news organizations are ‘friendly’ to the administration. And the last thing a real news journalist in post-Watergate America wants to be considered is ‘friendly’ to anyone.
Second, it attempted to push Fox News out of the bureau pool too soon. The pump was just not primed well enough. If the administration had not offered the interview of the Pay Czar as a bureau pool interview and instead simply made the interview a private affair to the other organizations but Fox News, as it had done with the President Obama interview a month earlier, they could have started a precedent, one that could have eventually worked in alienating Fox news. But they overreached and the Bureau Chiefs, all of them, rejected the notion. They appear to understand that if this is possible to do to Fox News, it could be them who is targeted next. Once the biggest enemy is dealt with, a new enemy must take their place and I don’t think any of the other news organizations wanted to be next on that list.
In the end it is a good thing that they seem to have failed at this point. While the followers of the left are so in the tank, much like those of the right with their political leaders, that they refuse to accept that this is an area that government should not be involved in in any way, perhaps this will allow some negative feedback into that Echo Chamber and spin it crashing down upon itself, as should be the case. We need the other side in these discussions to hold back the excesses of the ruling party. The administration must be held in check, even if you agree with their agenda. This is a fact that was true during the Bush years with wiretapping, torture and the Patriot Act as is still true today. Which side of the equation you are on should not be making that fact invalid, if it is perhaps you should think about watching Fox News yourself and allowing some negative feedback into YOUR Echo Chamber.